Germany urges Bulgaria to lift its veto on North Macedonia’s EU accession talks


SOFIA/SKOPJE, June 11 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz encouraged Bulgaria to lift its veto on EU membership talks for North Macedonia on Saturday during a visit to Sofia, saying the bloc should avoid dashing hopes of membership in the Western Balkans. Read more

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given a new sense of urgency to the process of bringing the Western Balkans closer to the EU27 in a bid to counter Russian and Chinese influence and reduce regional tensions.

Scholz, who was visiting Sofia as part of a two-day tour of the region ahead of the EU-Western Balkans leaders’ summit on June 23, had made the issue a foreign policy priority.

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“I see chances for progress,” Scholz said during a press conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov. “We will remain in close exchange in the coming days.”

Petkov reiterated Bulgaria’s position that North Macedonia must meet three conditions related to historical and cultural differences between the two countries, urging Brussels to ensure they are met. Read more

The sensitivity of the subject was clear this week when one of his four coalition partners resigned, accusing him of being prepared to override Bulgaria’s veto in defiance of national interests, among other allegations.

Earlier on Saturday, Scholz traveled to North Macedonia, which has already made many reforms in its bid to join the EU, such as changing its name to meet Greek objections.

Speaking in Skopje alongside North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, Scholz said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made it important for Europe to stay united.

Scholz fashioned himself into a mediator during his journey.

On Friday, he visited Serbia and Kosovo, which declared independence from Belgrade in 2008, where he urged leaders to reach an agreement on normalizing relations.

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Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Skopje and Ivana Sekularac in Belgrade; Additional reporting by Tom Sims in Frankfurt; Editing by Jason Neely

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